The field was prepped and the fans were present setting the stage for A-D-M softball to capture their first state title in 48 years at the state softball Class 4A championship game Friday night.
Unfortunately what befell the Tigers was a big fifth inning by opponent Des Moines Hoover who defeated A-D-M by an 8-3 final to claim the Class 4A title in Fort Dodge.
The game started out the way the entirety of the postseason has for the Tigers who totaled one run through five postseason match-ups including the state tournament. Both teams were held silent by the pitching opposition with A-D-M’s Abbie Hlas entering with a strikeout mark north of 335 while Des Moines Hoover’s held opponents to just .263 all season. It took until the third inning for the first hit, let alone the first run to be recorded as A-D-M’s Emily Hlas struck the first hit of the game in the bottom of the third inning.
From there a slight momentous run favored the Tigers who struck for a two run inning in the bottom half of the fourth. Abbie Hlas increased her already Class 4A leading double mark as she earned a two bagger to start out the bottom of the fourth. That set up Sierra Wyant to connect on the game’s first score as she drove in Hlas with her ninth double of the year. From there a suicide squeeze attempt by A-D-M that was originally called an out was later reversed and called successful to give the Tigers the early 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately what would be an offensive surge for the Tigers would also serve as an offensive surge for the Huskies just half an inning later. It would be an inning to forget for the Tigers who watched eleven Husky batters step up to the plate, driving home seven runs off of six hits to quickly erase an A-D-M advantage in favor of a 7-2 Hoover lead. What followed then was an inauspicious final four innings as A-D-M, a team who scored no less than five runs in each of the final two innings of the previous two games, scratched across just one run the entire rest of the game.
After Des Moines Hoover collected an inside the park home run in the top half of the seventh, future freshman Brynn Busta earned her 22nd RBI of the season following Brooke Hickey’s second triple of the year. Despite averaging nearly three runs per final two games of this season, A-D-M just didn’t have enough to scrape across enough runs in the final frame and the Tigers magical season would end six runs shy of a championship.
In total the Tiger offense wasn’t shy striking for five total hits. Facing a Des Moines Hoover team averaging nearly eight runs per game, Abbie Hlas stood strong inside the circle collecting just eight runs on eight hits, two walks, and five total strikeouts.
It was a bitter sweet atmosphere surrounding the Tigers and their fans after the game. After all they were just one of eight teams across the entire state to make it to Fort Dodge and just one of two vying for a championship title. That was exactly the mature thought process that a very wise beyond her years Abbie Hlas spoke about after the game.
“It’s not a great feeling falling short like we did but the season overall has been amazing,” began Hlas. “We did so much and came so close and while it hurts not to win it all myself and the rest of the team just have to realize that we had a great season and no one can take that away from us.”
A-D-M’s elder statesmen and lone senior Ashley Tennant echoed those thoughts adding gratefulness into the equation.
“The season felt way to short and it’s hard to realize that the season’s over but one thing the myself and my team felt is grateful for the season we had,” started Tennant. “We’ve checked off all of our goals except one and while it’s not the ending that we wanted we’re so proud of how far we came.”
Tennant was not only the lone senior but an integral part of the successful 2018 campaign for the Tigers and head coach Rick Dillinger spoke about Ashley’s effect after the game.
“At the beginning of the season Ashley had the challenge of stepping up and taking on the role of leader and she did a phenomenal job at that,” started Dillinger. “She not only led by example at the plate but as a teammate in the dugout and that’s just something you can’t coach and it’s so valuable. She will surely be missed next season.”
The Tiger softball program sure did come a long ways in just one season adding 18 wins to their record from a year prior, not to mention a state runner up title after a ten year absence from the state tournament. A-D-M went above and beyond expectations all season long and did so all the way until the state tournament.
“We overachieved all year long,” began Dillinger. “I love this team and what they’ve done all season. They have great chemistry and they fed off each other each and every game. They’ve been such an amazing group to coach and I wouldn’t have wanted to coach any other team.”
While A-D-M softball didn’t get to hoist the Class 4A title trophy, there still is a lot to be said about a team that made it back to the promise land after a ten year absence and go as far as they did. They were a consistent offense and one of just 44 teams in the entire state to have under ten losses and just one of 22 teams to earn 30 plus wins on the season. The Tigers officially end their 2018 campaign with a record of 35-8.